On the evening before the coronation, the Duchess waited with Lionel while Bertie spoke privately with the Archbishop. Lionel knew that Bertie was terrified about the ceremony, yet Bertie's wife exuded confidence.

Since she had not yet been crowned Her Majesty and was still a mortal like himself, Lionel let himself wonder whether this was because she would soon receive the title her husband's brother had wished to bestow upon an American divorcee. Bertie had never wanted to be king, but as for what his wife had wanted for him - and for herself and their daughters - Lionel was less certain.

He'd heard whispers that Elizabeth had turned down Bertie's marriage proposals at first in the hope of luring the attentions of the brother destined for the throne. If she had dreamed of becoming Queen of England, all her choices had been vindicated. No wonder she seemed so pleased with herself.

The Duchess caught his gaze, which Lionel quickly lowered. He feared that she would guess at his ungenerous thoughts, but on this night she was quick to forgive even breaches of etiquette.

"My husband tells me that you have a great fondness for Shakespeare," she said in a friendly tone.

Lionel had waited for years for such an opportunity. He blurted out, "Your husband tells me that you grew up in Glamis Castle." It was not something he had ever dared to bring up in conversation for fear of sounding like a royal hanger-on, but her words had seemed to be an offer to pursue the subject. Indeed, she nodded at him encouragingly. "May I ask what it was like?

"Not so much grand as imposing. Quite drafty, especially in winter." She smiled at him. "Alas, I'm told that Macbeth and his lady never actually lived there. Macbeth killed Duncan fairly on the battlefield, you know, after Duncan led an army into his lands. It was Duncan's grandfather Malcolm who died at Glamis, and it was not from murder most foul."

Lionel refrained from mentioning that that line was from Hamlet, not Macbeth. "I see you've studied your history as well as your Shakespeare," he said instead, returning her smile.

"I'm sometimes asked about it by people who prefer the version of events in the play. I'm afraid that I must disappoint them when I explain that no dagger of the mind has ever appeared before me. But the castle does have a ghost. To this day, we leave an empty seat in the chapel for the Grey Lady."

Lionel was curious whether the unfortunate Grey Lady - the tortured and executed Lady Glamis, Janet Douglas - had been burned at the stake by one of Elizabeth's own ancestors. But again, he held his tongue.

The Duchess of York had made it apparent that she was more desirous than the Duke to wear a crown. Lionel had heard her order her husband to be brave, just as the Lady of Glamis in Shakespeare's play had done when she learned of the destiny for which Macbeth seemed intended.

Beneath her gentility, what ruthlessness might Bertie's wife disguise? Lionel could picture her in the famous role, hissing, "Thou shalt be what thou art promised."

Bertie emerged with the archbishop, looking tired and nervous. Lionel gave him an encouraging smile, then glanced at Elizabeth. Her expression was not so much concerned as determined.

Lionel could also well imagine how far this Scottish lady might go to seize the throne, should a trio of witches arrive before sundown.